Whistler chefs among the best in the West
A new cookbook celebrates West Coast cooking and the chefs who made the region famous
"Fine dining" is a relatively new concept for Canadas West Coast. Throughout Cornucopia, wine producers, connoisseurs, restaurant owners, critics and gourmets commented on how far the industry has come in the last 10 years.
As the restaurant scene emerged, so did a distinctive, regional cooking style based on the natural ingredients that grow along the coast. Created and perfected by some of the most renowned chefs in all of Canada, this style of cooking is starting to attract attention nationally and internationally.
After travelling through B.C. and sampling the best of the West Coast, Virginia Lee, a cookbook author based in Nova Scotia, looked for a B.C. cookbook to take home with her. When she was unable to find one, she decided to put one out herself, touring the province and collecting recipes from the finest chefs and restaurants.
The final result is Pacific Flavours Recipes from the Best Chefs on Canadas West Coast .
"The abundant variety of quality local foods coupled with a wealth of ethnic products from the provinces large international population turns British Columbian kitchens into cooks playgrounds," wrote Lee in her introduction.
Lee focused her attention on the cuisine of greater Vancouver, Victoria and the islands, the Okanagan Valley and Whistler. Not only are these areas key tourism and culture hubs, the variety of different climates and terrain makes each region distinct.
Judging by the assortment recipes, Lee spent a lot of her research time in Whistler, where many of our most popular and internationally famous restaurants specialize in regional cooking. Her book includes recipes from Araxi, Edgewater Lodge, La Rúa Restaurante, Quattro, Rim Rock Café, Trattoria Di Umberto, Val dIsere, and The Wildflower Restaurant.
There are more than 20 Whistler recipes in the book, including appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Each recipe includes a list of ingredients, substitute ingredients, and a play-by-play description of how to put it all together. As a bonus, each chef also recommends a type of wine to go with the course.
In the Appetizer section, executive chef Thomas Piekarski of Edgewater Lodge contributed a recipe for Pan-Seared Camembert with Spicy Cranberry Sauce. "Creamy Camembert literally oozes from its crunch crust in this hors doeuvre, which is delicious spread on bread or crackers," writes Lee.
Chef Rolf Gunther, co-owner and operator of the Rim Rock Café, follows up with recipes for Rare Ahi Tuna and Asian Papaya Slaw, served with Lime Sesame Dressing. "The influence of other Pacific Rim countries is evident in Rolf Gunthers exquisitely prepared tuna seared on a fresh-tasting tropical papaya slaw."
Chef Gunther follows the tuna with a Cream of Chantrelle Soup with Blueberry Crème Fraiche that Lee calls "delicately flavoured."
In the Salad section, the Edgewaters Piekarski gives up the recipe for his Edgewater Salad, comprised of organic greens and vegetables and edible regional flowers. Piekarski describes it as a "visually pleasing array of seasonal greens and tomatoes, enlivened by a simple lemon, herb, garlic and olive oil dressing."
Whistler restaurateur Umberto Menghi follows up with a recipe for Cambazola Caldo con Crostini, a mix of french bread, greens and Cambazola cheese. Lee writes "The Rockies may surround the restaurant but the aroma is pure Alps," demonstrating that she has better taste than geographic sense.
La Rúa Restaurante and executive chef R.D. Stewart toss up a "new twist on the traditional spinach salad" with a recipe for Spinach Salad with Honey Dressing and Pancetta Feta Tuques.
In the Entrée section, chef Piekarski of Edgewater Lodge included a recipe for Edgewater Marinated Venison Medallions, with venison raised on the lodges own ranch outside of Lillooet.
Chef Glenn Monk of The Wildflower Restaurant contributed a recipe for Hay-roasted Fraser Valley Poussins (young chickens) with Creamy Parmesan Polenta, served with seasonal vegetables. "The restaurant makes a special effort to use local ingredients," says Lee.
In the Seafood Entrée section, chef Stewart of La Rúa contributes a recipe for Halibut Poele with Lemon Potatoes and Chive Butter Sauce.
Chef Rob Parrott of Quattro follows up with Al Granchio (Black Squid Pasta) with Dungeness Crab Sauce; "a very dramatic presentation with its fresh black squid-ink pasta topped with a delicate, slightly pink sauce." Parrott also submitted a recipe for Branzio Alla Crosta (Crusted Sea Bass), one of Quattros most popular entrees.
Chef Gunther of the Rim Rock Café submitted Almond Ginger-Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Orange Lime Beurre Blanc. "The firm yet moist texture of this ocean fish, lightly crusted with a nutty ginger batter and drizzled with orange lime butter sauce, garners rave reviews," says Lee.
Chef and proprietor Roland Pfaff of Val dIsere Restaurant rounds out the Seafood Entrée section with a recipe for Cedar-infused B.C. Salmon with Onion Confit and Hazelnut and Balsamic Vinaigrette. "Part of the delight of this dish is the armoa that wafts through your kitchen from the baking cedar plank," says Lee. Chef Pfaff usually serves the salmon on a bed of sauteed sea asparagus, a specialty item that grows in the cold waters of the North Pacific.
In the Lunch, Tea, Breakfast section, Chef Monk of The Wildflower Restaurant provides the recipe for Chateau Whistler Granola. "If all cereal tasted as good as this, then you would rarely find bacon and eggs on the breakfast menu," says Lee. "Wholesome and nutritious, its just what you need to prepare for a day on the slopes."
For lunch, Umberto Menghi recommends the Frittata Trattoria, an Italian omelette with goat cheese, mushrooms and roasted sweet pepper.
Chef Pfaff provides a recipe for Sun-dried Tomato Risotto, to be served with a salad and some crusty French bread. Umberto also provides a Risotto recipe: Saffron Risotto with Pumpkin.
As a side dish, the Wildflowers Monk provides a recipe for Mount Currie Rhubarb and Sweet Ginger Chutney using locally grown ingredients.
Which brings us to the Desserts section. The last Whistler recipe in the book is provided by Chef Parrott of Quattro: Chocolate Terrine, served with Almond Crackers. "This smooth-as-silk dessert is a chocolate lovers dreams," says Lee. At Quattro they serve it with pistachio anise ice cream, but whipped cream or fruit sauce are great substitutes.
Despite her inability to distinguish the Rockies from the Coast Mountains, Lee flatters Whistler at every opportunity, clearly blown away by the quality and quantity of fine dining.
"Whistler is renowned as a world-class winter and summer sports mecca, and what better way to cap off a day of fun in the mountains than to sit down to a fine meal in a world-class restaurant," writes Lee.
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